What is the etymology of восемь and девять?

  • 1
    Why восемь and девять only? All Russian numerals from один to десять share Proto-Indo-European roots with English one to ten and Latin unus to decem respectively. Восемь and девять are not exceptions. Jul 19, 2014 at 16:27
  • Yes, but it's hard to divine the connection when none of the equivalents I know in Romance, Greek, Germanic and Indo-Aryan, whose relationship can be seen, as with the other Slavic cardinals, when these two bear no resemblance at all. So perhaps you could enlighten me. Thanks
    – Michael
    Jul 19, 2014 at 18:39
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    No, I'm not wrong. Read what I wrote. The relationship, to the language families I mentioned, of the Slavic cardinals, other than 8 and 9, is clear. If you know the answer, why not tell me?
    – Michael
    Jul 19, 2014 at 20:02
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    @Rocketq the person who wrote THAT clearly knows nothing about Russian language deeper than one or two centuries ago. So nope, hardly useful. Unless one truly believes that Russians invented words for numbers yesterday.
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 22, 2014 at 20:05
  • 2
    @Michael девять from old slavonic devętĭ "nine" < *newn̥-ti- (Influenced by dékm̥t "ten") Jul 23, 2014 at 9:31

3 Answers 3


In the past (18 century and earlier) Russain peoples said "осемь", not "восемь." They said "Осемнадцать", не "восемнадцать". Now do not speak. But retained the word "осьминог" ~ Octopus. "Осьминог", not "Восьминог".

Восемь ~ осьмь ~ octo


Восемь comes from PIE o̯ectou

Девять comes from PIE e̯neun

en, n̥, em, m̥ -> ę (and later -> Russian я) change is common for Slavic, so regularly it should produce (accounting for the ti-suffix) невять rather than девять, but the influence of the word for ten, десять changed the initial consonant to d-.

Similarly the word for eight came under influence from the word for seven.


Both words come from Indo-European roots.

It is quite easy to see it if you use Baltic/Germanic languages as proxy.

For example, Latvian/Lithuanian astoņi/aštuonì have roots in Proto-baltic aštō-, which apparently is very similar to Germanic -acht and comes down to the Indo-European oḱtṓ-. Considering things above the Old Church Slavonic osmĭ for "eight" fits beautifully into set. "os" just got "в" added at the front which is typical for Belarussian language and Ukrainian language (not sure if for the whole or just its dialects).

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